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Chainsaw Safety Clothing & Equipment

When working in any occupation that utilises chainsaws, it isn’t just the chain to be wary of. The risk of loose chippings, vibrations, and the high levels of noise when operating machinery can cause significant damage over time and usage. Moreover, working with a chainsaw often also involves working at heights or on dangerous surfaces, especially when it comes to Arboriculture.

This is why not only wearing, but understanding what exactly constitutes the correct Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, is so important. PPE provides the essential defensive barrier between you and your environment.

We are going to look at a brief rundown of what should be included in every chainsaw operator’s PPE wardrobe whenever working with a chainsaw.

Chainsaw Safety Clothing & Equipment

Putting Together Chainsaw Protective Clothing

The first thing to note regarding chainsaw PPE is that no protective clothing or equipment can entirely prevent injury - it can only help minimise the effect. Chainsaw boots, for example, only have protection in certain areas of the boot; even then, the effectiveness to resist a saw will be dependant on the power of the saw, the sharpness of the chain and the force of impact. It’s important to understand this and never assume that your chainsaw PPE will prevent an injury.

When you've bought your Chainsaw PPE you may have noticed products are labelled Class 1, Class 2 and Class 3 alongside the usual Safety Standard rating. This classification describes the chainsaw speed to which that particular item of PPE was tested and therefore the speed of chain it is designed to block. Class 1 products are tested to a chainsaw speed of 20m/s which is the recommended minimum requirement for leg protection. Class 2 products are designed to withstand a chain moving at 24m/s and Class 3, a chain moving at 28m/s. There is also a Class 0, which resists cutting at 16m/s which is the standard minimum for hand protectors, gloves, upper body protectors and gaiters.

With PPE, let's start from the top down with a chainsaw specific safety helmet. The Arboriculture and Forestry Advisory Group (AFAG) advise that for any above ground work, you wear a mountaineering style, BS EN 12492 compliant helmet which has a 4-point chinstrap and has undergone crown- and side-impact testing. To mitigate the risk of potential long term hearing damage from working alongside loud equipment, helmets should, where possible, incorporate BS EN 352-1 compliant ear protection. Flying shards and chippings are a frequent hazard, so your helmet should be equipped with a strong face visor to guard against dust and debris, in accordance with BS EN 1731 guidelines.

Moving down to the hands, protecting against chainsaw cuts, thorny material and adverse weather conditions, chainsaw gloves are another important piece of kit. Gloves should meet EN388 (3122) for Mechanical Hazards, or EN381-7 for Handheld Chainsaws. Anti-Vibration gloves reduce the damage to the nerves and muscles in your hand from the reverb of vibrating machinery.

All leg protection should comply with EN381-5. When buying chainsaw protective trousers you must consider the coverage of protection. The coverage of protection is divided into two subsets, and which is most advantageous depends on the specifications of your chainsaw use and the environment in which you are working:

Type A trousers provide protection to the front of the leg only, in comparison to Type C trousers which give all round protection. Whilst AFAG recommends wearing Type C protection for aerial work, an allowance is made for wearing type A if your risk assessment identifies a significant risk of heat stress - in the words of HSE, “Where wearing Type C is impractical (e.g. because of the higher risk of heat stress), it may be appropriate to use Type A, where justified by risk assessment.” Type C protection is also advised if you are a trainee, or are working with trainees, less experienced operators or within a large group. Type A protection is acceptable for trained operators working solo on the ground.

Chainsaw leg protection (front)
Chainsaw leg protection front (all)
Chainsaw leg protection (back Class C)
Chainsaw leg protection back (Type C)
Chainsaw leg protection (back Class A)
Chainsaw leg protection back (Type A)

Also to be considered is the quality of the chainsaw trousers - a better quality trouser will often offer advantages such as lighter weight materials, better breathability and more resistance to snagging, abrasion or exhaust heat. Some type A trousers have ventilation zips to the back of the legs to allow much-improved air circulation and breathability.

Chainsaw safety boots to BS EN 381-3 or BS EN ISO 20345:2004 with chainsaw protection and a protective toe cap, should always be worn. Other features to look out for, in addition, to fit and comfort, are good grip, breathability and waterproofness.

Whilst there are no particular safety standards dictating the outer layers of clothing, useful features to keep in mind is if it is tear resistant, durable, waterproof and where appropriate, high visibility.

Chainsaw boots

Where Chainsaw Protective Clothing is Mandated

Working at Height: Aerial Tree Work

Since 2005, aerial tree work has been regulated by the Work at Height Regulations, which puts the duty of care on the employers to ensure that the work environment is as safe as possible, and all employees are wearing proper protective gear.

One key aspect of working at height is using a personal fall protection system. Whilst there are potentially safe structures, such as using elevated work platforms, that can be used to work at height, knowing how to correctly use a system of ropes and harnesses is still necessary.

Climbing should be undertaken only after: 

  • A risk assessment is done on the proposed system within the work environment
  • The use of other, safer work equipment (mobile elevating work platforms) is not justified or suitable
  • Sufficient specific training to the task, such as rescue protocols, has been given to the primary and secondary users.

When working at height, hi-vis PPE is strongly recommended in order to promote visibility, especially when working within a group.

First Aid and Chainsaws

If you take ill or are injured at work, it is your employer's responsibility to ensure you receive attention and care. In order to make sure your workplace is as safe as possible, use a risk assessment to plan out what your specific first aid requirements are.

Generally, every workplace should have the minimum of:

  • A well suitably stocked first aid kit
  • An appointed first aider
  • Detailed information on first aid procedures such as reporting

A chainsaw operator should carry a personal first aid kit on them, containing a large wound dressing plus other essentials.

If you work with chainsaws you should be trained in emergency first aid, especially for the two major risks to your health in your field of work: controlling major bleeding and dealing with crush injuries. In remote sites or particular weather climates, workers may be at risk of hypothermia, which should be factored into your first aid kit through items like insular blankets. You need to ensure your workplace first aid kit, or a personal first aid kit is always within reasonable access.

How to Stay Safe Operating a Chainsaw

Controlling the Risks

Risk assessing your workplace environment should be a constant practice, with risk being continually assessed, as this will help you recognise potentially harmful practices and set into place more effective control measures to manage these risks.

A risk assessment is about identifying risks and taking sensible and proportionate measures to control them and prevent harm. Look at your working practices and environment, and identify where there is a risk of harm, injury or dangerous behaviour. If possible, set up protocols that ideally eradicate it altogether, or if not possible, minimise the potential for damage.

For more information on how to work safely with chainsaws, read our guide here:

Fitness to Operate a Chainsaw

When working with chainsaws or other heavy machinery, in order to maintain the health and safety of yourself and your workers, you both need to be operating at a reasonable level of mental and physical fitness. If you are unsure about a worker's abilities, seek medical advice to assess their strengths and limitations. It’s been advised to seek medical advice if a worker has any medical condition, or takes medication, affecting their:

  • Mobility
  • Alertness
  • Physical strength
  • Vision (which cannot be corrected by glasses or contact lenses)
  • Manual dexterity/ grip strength
  • Balance

Operators using chainsaws for any task in any industry must be competent under PUWER 1998.

New Workers

Assess their capabilities and plan an induction for them. Ensure that all workplace safety measures are up-to-date and that they are provided with suitable PPE taking into account their inexperience and vulnerability. Make sure that they receive relevant information (for example first aid and emergency procedures), instruction, training and supervision and check that they have understood this information.

Chainsaw Maintenance

Chainsaws should be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations and regularly serviced. If there are any faults with your equipment you should immediately take it out of use for servicing, repair or replacement. Never put yourself or other employees in a situation of unnecessary risk.

Outside of the regulatory standards we’ve covered here, the majority of chainsaw safety is covered by professional training and simple common sense. Always have respect for the machinery you are working with, and no matter how long you’ve been in the industry, always retain a healthy amount of caution.

For more information about any of the chainsaw equipment we sell, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01780 482231

Or via our contact form here:

Chainsaw Safety Clothing Guides